BERNARD Arnault, France's richest man and the founder of the LVMH luxury goods empire, provoked a political firestorm in France at the weekend when he confirmed he is seeking dual French- Belgian citizenship.
Although Mr Arnault (63) said he had no plans to move to tax exile in Belgium, his decision was immediately linked by politicians on both left and right to President Francois Hollande's promise to impose a 75pc tax on marginal income over €1m.
There have been rumours that this will be diluted when formally proposed later this month, but Mr Hollande has insisted that his promise would be kept.
Mr Arnault said he wanted to be Belgian so he could "develop" his financial interests in France's northern neighbour.
But his explanation was dismissed as absurdly unconvincing in both countries yesterday.
As France's richest man, with interests estimated by 'Forbes' magazine to be worth €32bn, he can already invest in Belgium as much as he likes.
As a Belgian, Mr Arnault could benefit from tax-free status in Monaco -- but only if he renounced his French citizenship. French people who live in the tiny principality are taxed in France. Belgian citizens live there tax-free.
Former centre-right prime minister Francois Fillon said Mr Arnault's decision was clearly provoked by the 75pc income tax plan.
"When a government takes decisions as stupid as that, you can expect terrifying consequences," he said.
Harlem Desir, deputy head of the Socialist Party, said: "If you love France, you don't leave when the going gets tough." (© Independent News Service)